New Zealand divers find body of equestrian champion
THE body of a Melbourne man who went missing while swimming in New Zealand's Waikato River has been found.
Police divers discovered 21-year-old Mathew Slade near where he was last seen - downstream of the Aratiatia dam in Taupo - about 2pm on Thursday.
He had gone for a swim shortly before 6.15pm on Wednesday and then started calling for help. A woman he was with ran to the riverbank but Mr Slade disappeared.
His parents have flown to New Zealand.
Mr Slade went to the country on December 22 and planned to stay there until March, riding and training ponies for the world championships of the mounted games, to be held in Taupo. He had represented Australia in the sport.
Mr Slade, a former student at Braemar College in Mount Macedon, was a skilled equestrian competitor at school, well-regarded by his peers.
Former Braemar College equestrian co-ordinator Bernadette Flanagan described Mr Slade as a ''fabulous boy'' who had excelled individually and in teams. ''He was a quiet achiever who was incredibly successful but just took it in his stride,'' Ms Flanagan said.
Mr Slade came from an equestrian family, with his parents and older brother having rode with the Riddells Creek Pony Club near their home.
''Mathew was a very well liked member of the club, he set a great example to the younger members, and he was always full of life and sunshine,'' pony club district commissioner Kevin Watson said. ''He was just a really lovely kid and it's a huge shock to everyone.''
It is thought Mr Slade went swimming with friends near a boat ramp where tourist jet boats are launched.
Rapids Jet manager Garry Stephen, whose company helped with the search, said the river was treacherous.
NINO BUCCI, DOMINION POST